50 State License Plate Rules

So you decided it’s time to get rid of your old car, whether it’s only worth recycling or you decided to sell to a private party buyer. But what happens to the license plates? Without a dealer involved, you need to be sure to know how to handle them correctly. The laws are different in each state. Here is a breakdown of how to handle license plates (and other noteworthy laws) in selling your vehicle, listed alphabetically by state including Washington, D.C.

What to do with your license plates after selling your car

Alabama

Remove your license plates from your vehicle when you sell it. With authorization, you may be able to transfer the plate to a new vehicle of the same class as long as all fees and taxes are current. You can do this through your county’s vehicle registration office.  If you are purchasing a private party vehicle in Alabama, you have 20 days to title and register the vehicle. For more information, see the Alabama Department of Revenue and this informative page for Shelby County residents.

Alaska

If you have a personalized or other specialty plate, you can transfer it to another vehicle in your name. Per Alaska’s Department of Administration, both vehicles must be registered in your name. A standard issue plate is not transferable and remains with the car. Keep in mind that, in Alaska, you must report a sale or transfer of vehicle within 10 days, which can be done online. If buying a replacement vehicle, you must register it within 30 days of purchase.

Arizona

For a small fee, you may transfer a plate on a vehicle registered in Arizona to another vehicle you own. Otherwise you either return it to the DMV or destroy it. Either way, keep your plate and don’t leave it on the car. You may qualify for a refund or credit for the unexpired part of your registration. See the Arizona Department of Transportation for details. Arizona also requires you to complete a sold notice, and, if buying a replacement vehicle, you only have 15 days after purchase to title it.

Arkansas

Keep your plate when selling your vehicle. You can transfer the plate to a new vehicle or return it to the Arkansas Department of Motor Vehicles if you are not going to use it. If transferring to a higher weight class, you will need to pay the difference in fees. You can complete the Transfer of Vehicle Ownership form online. Also keep in mind that you have 30 days to register if you’re buying a replacement vehicle.

California

The plates stay with the vehicle after the sale, unless it is a personalized or other specialty license plate. Personalized plates can be transferred to a new vehicle through the California DMV. You have 5 days after the sale to complete the Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability form, which can be done online. If purchasing a new vehicle as a replacement, you have 10 days from the date of sale to transfer ownership.

Colorado

By law, you keep the plates when you sell a vehicle. You can transfer the plate to your new vehicle for a fee through the Colorado Department of Motor Vehicles. The Release of Liability form can be done online within 5 days. When buying a replacement vehicle, you must register it or transfer the title within 60 days.

Connecticut

Keep your plates. Per the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles, you can transfer your plate to a new vehicle for a fee.  You receive credit toward your new vehicle’s registration for months remaining on your old registration. If selling privately, the guidelines require you to write a Bill of Sale to give to the purchaser. It’s a good idea to keep a copy of this for yourself (you can either write your own or download a form to print from the DMV).

Delaware

Plates stay with the car. However, it’s worth being aware that you can transfer a plate to another vehicle. You can even trade plates with another vehicle owner for a small fee. Low number plates still in circulation in Delaware can actually be quite valuable and only become available through the state again if the plate expires (for example, if the owner sells or registers the car out of state). If you have a low number on your Delaware plate, it’s worth checking into its value before you get rid of your car.

District of Columbia

If you are getting a new vehicle, you can transfer the tags. Otherwise, you must either surrender your tags and plates to the DMV or cancel them. In either case, the plate comes off the vehicle.

Florida

You must keep your plates. If you are not transferring them to another vehicle, you must turn them in to the Florida DMV. Be careful, because your driver’s license could be suspended if you don’t! Transferring to a replacement vehicle is preferable to obtaining a new plate, because you pay a substantial fee when getting new ones.

Georgia

The license plate does not transfer to the new owner. You do need to cancel the plate’s registration through the Georgia DMV (BEFORE canceling insurance for the sold vehicle) if you are not transferring it to another vehicle.

Hawaii

The license plate stays with the vehicle, as Hawaii uses this to identify the vehicle. Registration is done on a county by county basis.

Idaho

Keep your license plates. They belong to you, not the car.  You may transfer them onto another vehicle, including credit for any time remaining on your existing registration. The exception to this is black and white vehicle restricted plates. See the Idaho DMV for more information.

Illinois

Plates belong to the owner, not the vehicle.  Keep your plate when selling, and you can transfer it to a new vehicle you own through the Illinois Secretary of State.

Indiana

You may transfer the plate to another vehicle through the Indiana BMV. Keep your plate when selling a vehicle.

Iowa

The Iowa Tax and Tags system is very clear about this: you absolutely keep your plates. If you have time remaining on your registration, you can either get a refund for the remaining time or transfer the plates to a replacement vehicle and get a credit toward the new vehicle’s registration. Be sure to do one or the other within six months.

Kansas

Keep your plate. You can transfer it to a new vehicle through the Kansas DOV at the County Treasurer’s Office. Keep your old registration, too, because you’ll need it to do the switch. You can even do this within 60 days after getting a new vehicle, if you haven’t sold the old one yet.

Kentucky

When junking a vehicle or selling a vehicle to an out-of-state buyer, you must return the plates to the Kentucky County Clerk’s Office.

Louisiana

When selling a car in, the seller should destroy the plates or, alternatively, turn them in to the Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicles. An exception is made for prestige or specialty plates which may be kept by the owner.

Maine

Keep your plate when disposing of a vehicle. If you register another vehicle within the same year, you may transfer the plate to it for a small fee via the Maine BMV. Otherwise, cancel your registration and return the plates.

Maryland

Keep your plates. You can transfer it to a new vehicle through the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration, provided you meet the following conditions: you haven’t changed addresses, the new vehicle is in the same classification, and you no longer own the original vehicle. You may also be able to transfer it for an additional fee even if you don’t meet all those requirements.

Massachusetts

Keep your plates. You may transfer them to a new vehicle within 7 days of disposing of the old vehicle, in person at a Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles office.

Michigan

When selling a car, be sure to keep your license plate. You can transfer it to another vehicle through the Secretary of State. The exception would be if selling to a family member. In such cases, you can elect to transfer the plate along with the ownership of the vehicle, in which case it remains on the car.

Minnesota

The plates stay with the car, and paid registration taxes are transferred to the new owner. The exception to this is personalized or specialty plates, which you may be able to transfer through a Minnesota Driver and Vehicle Services office.

Mississippi

Be sure to remove your plate when disposing of a vehicle. It does not transfer to a new vehicle, and you must surrender it to the county’s Tax Collector office.

Missouri

Keep your plates. You can transfer your registration credit, and the plates themselves in some cases, to a new vehicle through the Missouri Department of Revenue. They do NOT transfer to the buyer.

Montana

Keep your plates. You can transfer them to a new vehicle when you register with the Montana Motor Vehicle Division through your county treasurer.

Nebraska

Remove your plate when selling or disposing of your car. It doesn’t transfer to a new vehicle, but you can submit it, along with the registration, to the Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles through your County Treasurer’s office to get a credit or refund depending on your situation.

Nevada

Keep your plates.  Plates are assigned to owners, not vehicles. You may transfer the plates to a new vehicle through the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles within 30 days (60 days for personalized plates). Otherwise, you must return them for cancellation.

New Hampshire

Keep your plates. Through the New Hampshire Division of Motor Vehicles, you may transfer them to a new vehicle. As long as the primary owner is the same, the credit on the registration will transfer also.

New Jersey

Keep your plates. You may transfer them to a new vehicle under the same name. If you don’t, you must surrender them to a New Jersey Motor Vehicle Agency.

New Mexico

Keep your plates. You have 30 days to either surrender, destroy, or apply to have the plate transferred to a new vehicle through the New Mexico Motor Vehicle Department.

New York

Keep your plates. You may transfer them to a new vehicle through the New York Department of Motor Vehicles, or, if not, you must surrender them. You may be eligible for a refund for remaining time on the registration if you surrender the plates.

North Carolina

Keep your plates. You may transfer them through the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles to another vehicle titled in your name.

North Dakota

Keep your plates. Though the North Dakota Department of Transportation, you can transfer them to a new vehicle you purchase. You may be eligible for a credit toward the new vehicle’s registration fees if there are unused months remaining.

Ohio

Keep your plates. You can transfer them to a new vehicle through the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

Oklahoma

As of time of writing, the plates remain with the car when you sell it. However, because of a change in the law, starting July 2019, sellers should keep the license plates after the sale. You may transfer them to your next vehicle through the Oklahoma Tax Commission’s Motor Vehicle Division.

Oregon

Keep your plates. Through the Oregon Department of Transportation, you can apply the plates to a new vehicle. If you are the owner of both the previous vehicle and the new vehicle, you can transfer the remaining registration time as well.

Pennsylvania

Keep your plates. You should return them to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation or you can transfer them to a new vehicle.

Rhode Island

Keep your plates. You can transfer them to a new vehicle through the Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles, and your remaining registration time will apply to the new vehicle.

South Carolina

Keep your plates. You can transfer the registration to a new vehicle through the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles. Restrictions apply if transferring the same tags and registration more than once. Also, keep in mind that South Carolina requires you to notify the DMV with the proper Notice of Vehicle Sold form when selling a vehicle.

South Dakota

Keep your plates. Per the South Dakota Department of Revenue, you may transfer the plates to a new vehicle through your County Treasurer’s Office. Bring the plates with you to complete this process.

Tennessee

Keep your plates. You may transfer the plate to a new vehicle through your County Clerk’s Office for a $1 fee, per the Tennessee Department of Revenue.

Texas

Keep your plates. The plate itself may be transferred for free through the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, but you will receive a new registration sticker.

Utah

Remove your plate from the vehicle. As long as the vehicle has the same registration period as your new vehicle, you can transfer the plate through the Utah Department of Motor Vehicles.

Vermont

Keep your plates. You can transfer them to another vehicle you own through the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles.

Virginia

Keep your plates. You may transfer them to another vehicle through the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. If you choose not to and you have at least six months remaining in your registration, you may also be eligible for a refund by returning the plates.

Washington

Keep your plates. You may transfer the plate to another vehicle titled and registered in your name in Washington state through the Washington Department of Licensing.

West Virginia

Keep your plates. You may transfer it to a new vehicle titled and registered to the same owner through the West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles.

Wisconsin

The plate belongs to owner, not the car. You may transfer it to a new vehicle through the Wisconsin Department of Motor Vehicles. You may be eligible for a partial refund of registration fees if you make the transfer before the registration expires.

Wyoming

Plate stays with owner, but the registration immediately expires. However, you may transfer your plate through your County Treasurer’s Office (per Park County Treasurer).